It’s A Disaster: “Arrested Development’s” David Cross discusses his apocalyptic new comedy

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Actor-writer-comedian David Cross probably needs no introduction. He’s worked on two of the funniest and most influential comedy series of the past 20 years: the HBO cult fave “Mr. Show with Bob and David” (which he co-created with Bob Odenkirk), and the beloved (and newly revived) “Arrested Development,” whose 15-episode fourth season premieres on Netflix May 26—seven years after its previous season ended.

In addition to his extensive TV work, Cross has also acted in films as wide ranging as Waiting for Guffman, Men in Black, Ghost World, I’m Not There, and (of course) Alvin and the Chipmunks. His latest movie, the dark comedy It’s A Disaster, revolves around four couples who meet for an uncomfortable Sunday brunch—one that quickly goes from bad to unbearable when the group discovers the world is about to end, and (even worse) they’re stuck together. Co-starring Julia Stiles, America Ferrara and Erinn Hayes, It’s A Disaster (which was written and directed by Todd Berger) finds unexpected humor in the unlikeliest  of comedy situations: the apocalypse.

The movie hits theaters today, and is also available via VOD. Just before its release, MM caught up with Cross to discuss It’s A Disaster, as well as what “Arrested Development” fans can expect to see of the always lovable, sexually confused Tobias Funke.

Kyle Rupprecht (MM): How did you get involved with It’s A Disaster? What drew you to the script?

David Cross (DC): America [Ferrara] sent it to me. I had just gotten back (literally two days prior) from eight months in London working, and had no desire to do anything that was going to keep me away from being home (in NY) finally. And since the movie was shooting in LA, I told her to not even bother sending it. But she insisted, I read it in one sitting, and then called her and said, “I’m in.” The script was funny without being too silly, the characters all felt like real people with dialogue that sounded equally natural. Very rare to see in comedies these days. Nothing false or bombastic about it.

MM: What appealed to you about playing the role of Glenn? Was the part challenging?

DC: The role wasn’t challenging at all. I was chomping at the bit to be able to do something straighter than the parts I usually get offered. I met with Todd and we came up with some character development and back story that made sense for Glenn.

MM: What was it like working with this great ensemble cast? Was there any improvisation on the set that made its way into the movie? As an actor, do you generally prefer to have lots of room for improvisation, or would you rather rely heavily on the script?

DC: Man, that cast is killer. What a great group of actors. They are all so good and collaborative. That was easily one of the best times I’ve ever had on set. Everyone involved was funny, considerate and professional. Just a great group overall. There was some improvisation. Certainly in scenes where we are at the table and talking over each other, but less than you might think. That’s a testament to the quality of the script and Todd’s ear for dialogue. I think the “threesome” scene was mostly improvised, ultimately. And there were some improvised lines here and there, but, again, mostly scripted. I love to have a solid script to work from, but I also like the freedom to improvise. That all depends on the director and how willing the other actors you’re working with are to have you riff. I’ve worked with some people that don’t deal with it well when you go off script. But not that many.

MM: Apocalyptic comedies are ubiquitous these days (in addition to It’s A Disaster, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World was released last year, and there’s also the upcoming This Is the End and The World’s End). Why do you think these bleak scenarios provide so much rich and varied comedic material?  What would you yourself do if you knew the world was coming to an end?

DC: Well, I hardly think three comedies over two years is ubiquitous [editor’s note: another upcoming one is Rapture-Palooza, starring Anna Kendrick and Rob Corddry], but I think it’s a natural, obvious source of comedy scenarios. Whether the writer/director treat it that way is another thing altogether. If I knew the end of the world was happening in several hours, I’d probably hurry and finish BioShock Infinite before the power went off.

MM: We know you can’t reveal much about the new, highly anticipated season of “Arrested Development,” but can you give us any clues as to what Tobias has been up to since we last saw him? What was it like to step into his shoes again after such a long absence?

DC: No. I can tell you that his shoes have gotten larger over the last six years.

MM: Anything else of interest looming on the horizon for you?

DC: Yeah, I am in the process of trying to get financing for a movie I wrote that I’m hoping to direct this summer. But until that happens, Kill Your Darlings [in which Cross plays Allen Ginsberg's father] should be coming out soon, and I’ll be at Bonnaroo doing stand-up in June.

To view the film’s trailer, click here.